Depression on My Mission: It Wasn’t a Cop-out

Depression on My Mission: It Wasn’t a Cop-out

Depression on the Mission
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“Why, in my right mind would I ever want to kill myself?” That was my thought as I walked down the dirt streets of Nicargua. I remember getting hit by an avalanche of thoughts telling me to take my own life. It was heavy and no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t lift it off of me. “Everyone feels this way, right?” “It will pass.” “I’m not praying enough, I’m not studying efficaciously enough.” “I just have to work harder and be more obedient.” I wasn’t good enough. I mentioned to my dad (who was in prison) in an email the thoughts that I was struggling with and he said that sometimes he felt down too but he just had to keep his chin up and things got better as he pressed forward in faith. Ok dad, if you say so.

A person I didn’t recognize

I continued to battle a personality that I realized wasn’t mine but for some reason couldn’t change. This was not who I thought I was. I used to be cool, fun, and outgoing. I’m Mr. Bengal 2011! Now I was stoic, cold, and uninterested. This must be who God wants me to be even though it’s hard and I don’t like it, I thought. After all, the mission is supposed to be hard. It’s supposed to stretch you and form you into the beginnings of your eternal mold. I knew the mission would change my life. Still, as I looked around, I saw other missionaries enjoy themselves and each other’s company as we all sat down for lunch with our food cita (appointment). I just stared at my beans and rice and thought “I’m not happy like them. I guess I’ll have to work harder.”

Not like the others

President decided to assign me to serve as a zone leader. I’d always wanted the chance to serve in leadership positions just like every missionary, but not like this. Not when I was this vulnerable. But the president knows best, and you don’t turn down a calling. Online searches while emailing home proved that I did have many symptoms of severe depression. Growing up I had seen the Abilify commercial on TV with the lady walking around looking at butterflies. I’d always scoffed at why anyone would ever take a pill to make them “happy”. Especially when a myriad of side effects were listed as she haplessly walked along; always ending with “or even death…” (Male voiceover voice). I’d think to myself ‘go hold a baby or help an old person! Do some service and you’ll feel better!’ But now I was sitting in my cubicle in the cyber (public computer place) helplessly crying and trying not to get caught by my companion. Of course, my letters said how awesome my mission was and how much fun I was having. If my dad can make it in prison then I can make it here, I thought.

Time went on and the love you feel when you’re on a mission, the forgetting of oneself, the realization that the gospel is the greatest gift and sheer joy of service were far from my reach. Everyone else seemed to have those things. What was I doing wrong? At this point I was starting to see that something was seriously wrong with my brain. No one else seemed to struggle as I did and all the missionaries could see the heaviness in my soul. So they left me alone. My companions and I mostly walked in silence. I tried to make small talk and get to know them but I was too immersed in my own suffering. I knew that I wasn’t the only one who had a hard time but still couldn’t help but drown in my own “hard time”.

Unexpected tragedy

In the midst of all this, I got a call from an unknown number on my cell phone and was told…

Read the rest of this story on Whatsoever Is Good.

Also read 8 Powerful Reminders for Missionaries Who Come Home Early.

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